By 1899 the City of Mandan had quieted down considerably from the days when the soldiers from Fort Abraham Lincoln, as well as the Texas cowboys, fresh from trailing their herds, had livened up the town. But on this date in 1899, the authorities were pondering the fate of a naive cowboy who had brought a touch of the Wild West back to the community.
It seems that a Negro traveling show had come to town and was entertaining at the opera house on Saturday night. George Owens, a cowboy, decided to take his girl to the show. He put on his finest outfit, and to top it off, he borrowed a 45 Colt with a holster. According to the Mandan Pioneer, George and his girl then proceeded to the crowded opera house to take in the performance.
Things went along fine until a female impersonator came onto the stage and began to “mourn for her long lost Georgie.” Surveying the room, she spied the group of cowboys that included Mr. Owens and his girlfriend. Pointing toward them she exclaimed, “There is my lost lover Georgie. How could you be so cruel and heartless as to desert me after you fondly promised to love and cherish me, your own darling.” George, not realizing this was part of the performance, took immediate offense. He worried his girlfriend might conclude that the woman on stage was in dead earnest, and he wasn’t going to stand for it.
According to the Pioneer reporter, “Quick as a flash, George was on his feet and whipping out his gun he let ‘er go.” The gun misfired, but George’s blood was boiling by this time. He was furious at the woman. As he was making ready for another shot at the female target on stage, he dropped the gun. It discharged, sending a bullet through the bottom of the chair in front of him, hitting Ed Hedger in the posterior. “In the meantime, women had fainted and pandemonium reigned supreme.” Thomas Kennelly grappled with George for the gun and finally gained possession of it. As Ed Hedger went running off in search of a surgeon and people were scrambling to get out of the way, Owens made good his escape. Once things got sorted out, the highly confused cowboy wasn’t arrested, but the episode brought back a lot of memories of the Wild West in Mandan.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
Jamestown Weekly Alert October 12, 1899